About this special report
What is the future of dairying in Canterbury and Southland? Both have had exponential growth in the last 40 years, but in recent years questions have been raised about their environmental impact, reflected in growing rules and regulations being imposed. In Canterbury the challenges are water use and nutrient loading, in Southland it is nutrient loading and winter grazing. The two regions have been hit hardest from M bovis, which is also impacting dairy farm management. So, what is the future of farming in these areas?
A study of Environment Southland water quality standards has concluded alternative but acceptable water quality targets can be achieved at a much reduced cost to farming and the regional economy.
A five-year project to help Canterbury dairy farmers reduce their environmental footprint is paying early dividends, with 70% of those in the Selwyn catchment already meeting initial nitrogen loss targets of 30%.
John van Hout has always been innovative with his nutrient management on his Southland dairy farm, an approach that is about to pay further dividends as regulations on nitrogen use are enforced.
It required a new approach to management, but researchers at the Lincoln University Dairy Farm (LUDF) have halved nitrogen losses as they adjust to farming within a synthetic nitrogen limit of 190kg/ha.
The sooner farmers start addressing nutrient loss, the easier the transition and the less likely Environment Southland will need to implement punitive measures, chair Nicol Horrell says.
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